R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to YOU (and you’re welcome for that earworm now). Every woman wants to be respected and admired at work, but often we are afraid of being perceived as too aggressive or too confident in our pursuit of greatness. While you can’t control other people’s opinions of you, you can control your own actions and resulting success.
Establishing your credibility takes time and effort. Here are 15 habits to master so your company and your colleagues will take you more seriously.
1. Respect Others — The most important way to gain respect from others is to show it first. Treat everyone at work, from those with the highest-ranking positions to the lowest, with common courtesy. Even when critiquing performance or letting someone go, make sure you are considerate and appreciative. As Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what yousaid, people will forgetwhat you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
2. Assert Yourself — Remember that confidence is contagious. If you believe in your own power, others will as well. All the better when you prove you actually know what you’re doing. Stop questioning yourself and apologizing for your statements. Be aware of the language you are using and speak with authority. Power poses can be helpful before important meetings to get your body and your mindset focused.
3. Be Open To Learning — Know what you don’t know. In order to grow, you need to recognize your limitations and address them. When others see that you are nimble in your approach, they will be more willing to collaborate with you. Every quarter or so, assess your areas for improvement, being honest with yourself and others. This humility goes a long way in disarming colleagues and convincing them of your value.
4. Communicate Effectively—Stop talking and start listening. The way you actively listen to and speak with coworkers determines so much of your success. If you want someone to understand and accept your opposing viewpoint, you need to model that behavior first. Open yourself up to hearing others’ perspectives and then make your case. Connect your data to a story so people can see actual applications. Humor helps everyone.
5. Find a mentor—Why go at this alone? A good mentor can be an amazing resource as you advance in your company. Your mentor does not have to be senior to you or even in the same field. Look for someone you admire and respect to whom you can vent and from whom you can seek advice. These relationships can strengthen over time or be more of an ad-hoc service depending on need and connection.
6. Manage Your Time—Try to establish yourself as one of those early people, minus the smugness. Sure, this is easier said than done, but being prepared and in advance of others allows you to take control of any situation, whether it’s a morning meeting, a client dinner, or a looming deadline. Try using a to-do app to monitor and schedule your time if you aren’t already. You don’t want to relinquish any of your ability to influence others by showing up late or delivering delayed results.
7. Create Boundaries—Be wary of blurred lines between the professional and personal. While maintaining a collegial environment with colleagues is important for engagement, so is establishing parameters around those relationships. Productivity and efficiency typically decrease when roles become conflated and, potentially, toxic. Keep it professional and make sure your direct reports do the same. Leading a dysfunctional group is not perceived any better than creating the dysfunction.
8. Look The Part—As much as we would like to believe we are living in a post-appearances society, we are not. The way you dress and present yourself matters more than it should, especially for women in male-dominated industries. Know your audience and use the opportunity to demonstrate your respect through your appearance. Claim ownership and find a way to look professional while still feeling like you.
9. Take Risks—Kiss your comfort zone goodbye. We all know that to expand your capabilities, you must go beyond the familiar. It takes diligence and persistence to determine your strategic goals and execute the hard work to achieve them. Growth stems from curiosity and others will appreciate your forward-thinking approach. Even when you fail, find a way to learn and teach from the experience. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "Do one thing every day that scares you."
10. Build Strong Teams—We’ve heard over and over again from business powerhouses like Bill Gates and Sheryl Sandberg that successful people surround themselves with other successful people, at home and at work. Even in a position of power, you will be judged on the basis of those under you. In order to deliver strong results, you need to proactively create a healthy and productive team culture. Take the time to cooperatively appreciate and acknowledge accomplishments and grow from challenges.
11. Sense Group Morale—If you are in a leadership role (or want to be), it’s imperative that you instill a sense of importance around team esteem. Promote regular check-ins, ask for feedback, and assess functionality in a systematized manner. People like talking about themselves so let them. Calm others’ fears, praise their accomplishments, and generally make yourself known as a person to be counted on and trusted.
12. Offer To Help—Who doesn’t want to be thought of as a collaborative thinker and leader? While this may require you to set strong boundaries regarding work delegation, it is important coworkers at all levels know you are reliable and amenable. Do good work even when the results don’t benefit you directly. A positive reputation will develop organically when you are willing to put the needs of the company above your own.
13. Nurture Professional Development—Help yourself by helping others. Think of how you can promote those around you as you ascend in your career. Make time for informational interviews, provide mentorship, recommend others, and create opportunities for advancement. By truly caring about the growth of colleagues, you strengthen those relationships and contribute to the overall growth of the company.
14. Follow Up—The sooner the better! Being responsive and reliable is incredibly important to your credibility and can lead to a strong reputation. Make sure you return emails, calls, and answer questions as quickly as you can, while being mindful of establishing unrealistic expectations. If you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do it, whether that’s summarizing the team’s quarterly reports or updating a client database daily.
15. Show Gratitude—At the end of the day, you have a job that pays you money. This alone is a fact to be celebrated. Stay present and aware of the gifts around you and others will notice. Keep a gratitude diary to foster positive thinking and retrain your brain away from negative thoughts. Expressing your gratitude to others for contributing to your success allows you to engage with your work in a happier and more determined way. Creating this cycle of engagement, happiness, and success will benefit you, your colleagues, and your company.
Elana Konstant is a career coach and consultant focusing on professional women in career transition. A former lawyer, she founded Konstant Change Coaching to empower women to create the career they want. Change is good. Elana will help you find out why. Her career advice has been featured on Glamour.com, Babble, Motherly, and other outlets. You can learn more by visiting her website, konstantchangecoachin